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Friday, January 20, 2012

The end of summer 2011

Well, our excess solar production from the summer has finally petered out - it made it up through 1-16-12, with a few last lonely kWhs in the tank.  Still, pretty good for such a cool, wet year last year.  We made 4130 kWh and didn't pay anything for electricity after around April last year -- hoping for a little more production in 2012 (maybe 4300 kWh), which would carry us into February next year.

Reserve some time for Monday night at City Hall!

English: Chicken coop and run by Oakdene CoopsImage via WikipediaThanks to VERY hard work by a handful of dedicated folks, Salem finally passed an ordinance allowing very limited amount of henkeeping in residential zones. The results have been as expected, with legal recognition REDUCING the problems caused by people who need to keep hens but won't spend any money on coops and equipment as long as they are banned entirely.

So that's the good part, we have limited legal henkeeping. The bad part is that the city council was so pelted with rocks from fearmongers trying to terrify people about hens that they wound up producing a real hairball of an ordinance that essentially treats hens as bloodthirsty terrors that need to be kept under armed guard at all times (in contrast with the complete absence of rules for keeping dogs, even very aggressive breeds).

Worse, the ordinance makes it outrageously costly to keep hens legally.

So, now that we have experience showing that the more the city acts reasonably, the more conditions improve for hens, henkeepers, and neighbors, it's time to improve the ordinance.

SO, PLEASE ATTEND the Salem City Council for the kickoff of the next round of "bringing sanity to henkeeping in Salem," the longest-running drama in Salem legislative history.

Monday, Jan. 23rd at 6:30 pm - please attend!

Chief petitioner Barb Palermo, founder of CITY (Chickens in the Yard) reports:
For the last three months I've been trying to get Salem's chicken ordinance modified. Based on a positive report from the Code Compliance Office, I thought we could get some changes made administratively, but unfortunately that is not the case. We're going to have to work for it.

While some city councilors support the changes, there is still resistance. City Staff has recommended no changes be considered for at least two more years, despite it's own report stating the number of complaints has decreased and backyard chickens have not created any problems.

At the January 23rd meeting, Councilor Chuck Bennett will make a motion to modify the chicken ordinance. We will need a lot of people at that meeting to support the proposed changes outlined below. If we can convince at least 5 of the 9 council members to support the motion, we could have a less expensive and less restrictive chicken ordinance in effect by spring!

There is only one way to make this happen and it requires a big showing of support at the meeting. You don't have to speak, sign in, or give your name. Just show up and raise your hand when we ask all supporters in the audience to do so. This is very important and very effective so PLEASE attend: Monday, January 23rd at 6:30 pm - Salem City Hall, 555 Liberty St SE, Room 240 (council chambers).
To induce you to come -- as if helping to improve your city greatly isn't enough -- Barb is offering a giveaway, free USDA 2012 poultry calendars. (I wonder if these are like "Playhen" with the hot centerfolds?)

1. Reduce the licensing cost to a one-time $25 fee (not $50/yr [!]).
There are now 57 registered chicken owners in the city of Salem. Each of them had to pay $50 for a chicken license, yet other pets cost little or nothing. Soon, our licenses will have to be renewed and we will have to pay another $50. This is unreasonable and for many, unaffordable. Most other cities do not charge a fee for keeping chickens and of those that do, it is a one-time fee. A one-time fee of $25 would cover the cost of maintaining the city’s online application process.
2. Reduce the inspection burden to one initial inspection (not every three years).
Most cities do not require inspections to keep chickens. If you think an inspection is still necessary, than it should only be required initially to obtain the license. After that, no follow-up inspections should be needed unless there is a valid complaint. Inspections are what cost the city money and by reducing the number of inspections, the city will save money and the cost of the license can be lowered as described above.

3. Drop the rule that forces coops out at least 10’ from the henkeeper's own house.
There is no logical reason for this. The closer the coop is to our own house, the further it will be from neighbors and that’s what matters.
4. Change how coop size is measured to exclude the run/pen.
The 120 square foot requirement should only apply to the portion of the chicken structure with walls and a roof, not the wire run that’s attached to it. A wire pen should not be subjected to the building code requirement because it’s not a building. The pen will still have to be at least 20’ from neighbors’ homes.
5. Increase the number of hens from three to five.
Many cities allow up to six hens and for good reason. Hens lay fewer and fewer eggs as they get older. We don’t want to get rid of older hens because they are pets we’re fond of, and they will continue to provide fertilizer and natural pest control. But we would like to be able to introduce young chicks when our hens get older, so the eggs keep coming. By increasing the number of hens to five, we could add two more chicks to the flock in a couple of years when our current hens get older and produce fewer eggs.
6. Allow chickens at churches, schools, and community gardens.
Marion-Polk Food Share, Pringle Creek Community Garden, and the Oregon Deaf School have all expressed a strong desire to include a chicken coop at their facilities. The Deaf School runs an urban farm program and thinks kids would benefit from learning to raise chickens. People at MPFS want to teach low-income families self-reliance and healthy food choices, and community gardens want fertilizer and natural pest control, and organic eggs to share.
If revised as proposed, these parts of the original ordinance would remain unchanged:
  • Online permits will still be required. That way, you will know where the chickens are and people will still have to read the rules and agree to them.

  • Coops and pens will still have to be at least 20’ from neighbors’ houses (not the property line).

  • The ordinance will remain complaint-driven. If a valid complaint is lodged, an inspection will be conducted and if the complaint proves valid, the chicken owner will be given time to comply or be fined.

  • Coops will still need to be maintained in a manner that does not create a nuisance.

  • Selling or slaughtering will continue to be prohibited.

  • Roosters will remain prohibited.

  • Escalating fines for non-compliance remain in effect.
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